11 June 2019

The Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In honor of the Duke of Edinburgh's 98th birthday, which he celebrated privately yesterday, we've got a look at one of the jewels he introduced into the royal vaults: the Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet.

Elizabeth and Philip pose for their engagement photos, 1947

When Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten -- or, as he was formerly known, His Royal Highness Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark -- proposed to Princess Elizabeth of the United Kingdom in the 1940s, he had to find a way to present his bride with jewels appropriate for a future queen while earning a sailor's paycheck.

Princess Alice wears the now-dismantled tiara

Help came in the form of a diamond tiara owned by his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg. She offered him a grand diamond and aquamarine tiara that had been one of her own wedding presents, a gift from her uncle and aunt, the late Emperor Nicholas II and Emperor Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia. Alice had kept the Romanov tiara for years, long after she regularly wore gala jewels, and she handed it over to her son to have it dismantled. Some of the stones were used to create Princess Elizabeth's engagement ring, while others were used to make the piece we're discussing today: the diamond bracelet he offered his new wife as a wedding present.

The Queen wears the bracelet to the Royal Film Performance in Leicester Square, 1952 (Reg Speller/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Philip went to a London-based jewelry firm, Philip Antrobus Ltd., to create the new diamond pieces in 1947. The engagement ring claimed a three-carat brilliant, plus several smaller stones; the new bracelet also includes three large brilliant-cut diamonds. The bracelet's design is geometric, almost Art Deco-inspired. It features three large, square links connected by vertical sections. Like the engagement ring, the bracelet is set in platinum.

The Queen wears the bracelet as she opens parliament in Ottawa, October 1957 (ARNOLD SACHS/AFP/Getty Images)

From the start, Elizabeth chose the new bracelet for significant white-tie events. She has also worn it for numerous portraits throughout her reign, from the earliest images to photographs taken to mark her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. It can sometimes be a little challenging to spot the bracelet in photographs, as the Queen's collection includes a number of diamond bracelets of a similar shape and size to this one, including Queen Mary's chain link bracelets and the diamond and gold bracelet that belonged to Queen Victoria.

The Queen wears the bracelet during the American state visit in 2003 (JOHN STILLWELL/AFP/Getty Images)

But while those other pieces have major historical and family importance, the sentimental value of the Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet is pretty hard to deny. It's no wonder that it has remained a staple in the Queen's jewelry box for nearly seventy years.

Kate wears the bracelet for the Chinese state banquet, October 2015 (Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool /Getty Images)

In 2015, the Queen loaned the bracelet to another member of the family: the Duchess of Cambridge. She debuted it on her left wrist at a state banquet given in honor of the President of China. The loan was a significant one -- the sentimental bracelet had never been worn in public by anyone but the Queen. For the banquet, Kate paired it with another diamond bracelet made from a choker necklace that had belonged to Queen Mary.

Kate wears the bracelet to the BAFTAs in London, February 2017 (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Kate has continued to wear the wedding bracelet regularly since that initial loan. I can't blame her: if my husband's grandmother offered me the chance to wear a bracelet set with Romanov diamonds that had been a wedding gift from her husband, I'd wear it literally everywhere.

Note: this is an updated version of an earlier post.